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San Jacinto River Tidal: A Project to Assess Legacy Pollutants in Fish

A completed project to assess consumer risk from legacy pollutants in edible fish

County: Harris
Parameter: Legacy pollutants in fish tissue
River Basin: San Jacinto River
Segment: 1001, 1005

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Background and Goals

In 2001, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS; then known as TDH) issued a notice advising consumers to limit their consumption of fish caught in the river. The advisory was issued after the DSHS determined that there was an unacceptable risk to human health due to elevated concentrations of organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and dioxin in fish tissue.

The advisory covered areas within two river segments:

  • Segment 1001, San Jacinto River Tidal
    The advisory applied to the portion of the segment below the U.S. Highway 90 bridge.
  • Segment 1005, Houston Ship Channel / San Jacinto River Tidal
    The advisory applied to the portion of the segment above the Lynchburg Ferry crossing.

The 14 pesticides identified in the advisory are legacy pollutants. Legacy pollutants are chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted, but which persist in the environment. Because of their slow rate of decomposition, legacy pollutants frequently remain at elevated levels in the environment for many years after their widespread use has ended. Their concentrations gradually decline over time as a result of natural attenuation.

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Project Results

After studying the fish tissue data for the San Jacinto River Tidal in more detail, representatives of both the TCEQ and the DSHS agreed that none of the legacy pesticides were present in fish tissue in concentrations that would pose a significant risk to consumers. Therefore, the DSHS rescinded its advisory for organochlorine pesticides in the two segments. The TCEQ withdrew its draft Fourteen Total Maximum Daily Loads for Legacy Pollutants in the San Jacinto River Tidal, and has ended the project. The PCB and dioxin contamination in fish will be addressed through other projects.

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For More Information

Please e-mail us at tmdl@tceq.texas.gov, and reference the San Jacinto Legacy Pollutant project in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682. See the DSHS’s Seafood and Aquatic Life GroupExit the TCEQ  Web page for more information about fish-consumption advisories and bans.

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